Postmortem (1998 DTV)

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Single-malt embalming fluid?
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US / 101 minutes / color / Imperial Entertainment, Filmwerks Dir: Albert Pyun Pr: Gary Schmoeller, Tom Karnowski Scr: John Lowry Lamb, Robert McDonnell Cine: George Mooradian Cast: Charles Sheen, Michael Halsey, Ivana Mílíčevíć, Stephen McCole, Gary Lewis, Dave Anderson, Leigh Biagi, Phil McCall, John Yule, Ian Hanmore, Ian Cairns, David Walker, Zuleika Shaw, Hazel Ann Crawford, Pauline Carville, Rab Affleck, Suzanne Carlsson, Lisa Earl, Carol Findlay, Erin Mooney, Alan Orr, Jenny Hughes.

This is not, let’s say it at the outset, a good movie. It’s a movie in which the lead actor, despite having built up an international reputation for spending much of his time falling over while under the influence, fails to convincingly portray falling over while under the influence. He portrays sobriety even less convincingly, which I suppose says . . . something.

Charles Sheen as James MacGregor.

James MacGregor (Sheen), after a stellar career of tracking down serial killers, has dropped out of the San Francisco PD because of acute depression and general burnout, and has written a bestselling true-crime book, Mind Crash, about an especially vile serial killer of children, Albert Smith. Now MacGregor is living in a cottage on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, hoping to find himself at the bottom of a bottle, if at home, or a glass, if at his favorite Glasgow watering hole, The Tollbooth, where barman Maddie (Yule) is allowing him to run up a tab.

Ivana Mílíčevíć as Inspector Gwen Turner.

MacGregor’s life changes when the posed murdered body of a young woman, Linda Symes (Carlsson), is discovered in his back yard. He has no idea how the corpse got there, having spent the night before attempting with increasing clumsiness to seduce incompetent local TV interviewer Jane St. John (Biagi). The cops, led by Inspector Danny Ballantine (Halsey) and Captain “Cap” Moore (Anderson), initially don’t believe him when he proclaims his innocence of the murder but then—pause for a quick cliche alert—decide instead to recruit their erstwhile Suspect #1 to their team because of his expertise.

Michael Halsey as Inspector Danny Ballantine.

Over the next few days it becomes evident that a serial killer is operating in Glasgow. However, this isn’t yer usual killer of young women: when the corpses are discovered, displayed in public places, they show zero evidence of sexual molestation—either pre- or post-mortem.

Indeed, the bodies have been wiped clean, drained of blood and injected with embalming fluid.

Expertly.

Almost as if . . .

Almost as if the killer might be the offspring of a funeral director who decades ago encouraged his son to encounter the opposite sex through a postmortem exploration.

Stephen McCole as George Statler.

Phil McCall as George Statler Sr.

Anyone who watches too many movies like this will have made this deduction almost immediately (I mean, it’s either that or it’s one of the cops, right?), but naturally it’s not at all obvious to MacGregor and the Glasgow cops that this might be an avenue worth pursuing.

Even after the father, Theodore Symes (Hanmore), of the killer’s first identified victim persuades MacGregor he should maybe stop drinking and start hunting the killer, it takes our reeling hotshot investigator some while to deduce he could be of more help to the Glasgow cops in tracking down the serial killer if only he sobered up. It takes the cops of the Glasgow police department just as long to accept MacGregor, with Ballantine doing so last of all.

Ian Hanmore as Theodore Symes.

One of those cops is Inspector Gwen Turner (Mílíčevíć), whose accent attractively mixes the Eastern European with the Scottish. Unfortunately, she’s not really given very much to do by the screenplay except look knockout (which she does extremely well) while recounting bits of evidence she’s unearthed on her computer. A less appealing mixture of accents is Halsey’s exaggeratedly harsh gravel, as Inspector Ballantine: his assumed tones seem, to this site’s resident former Aberdonian, to be embarrassingly wide of the mark.

That said, Ballantine has one of the movie’s best lines when, early on, he interviews the habitually inebriated MacGregor:

Ballantine: “Would you like to make a telephone call, Mr. MacGregor? To your agent, maybe, a solicitor . . . the off-license? Your wife?”

Dave Anderson as Captain Moore.

Postmortem isn’t entirely a mess—there are good performances from, among others, Stephen McCole as George Statler and (although it’s a very small part) from Lisa Earl as Sharon Ligget, Victim #2—but it’s easy to understand why it went straight to video (except, for some unknown reason, in Japan, where it enjoyed a theatrical outing). The upside of having a plot that weaves together cliches from other, better movies is usually that the result has a sort of reassuring familiarity that facilitates the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Here, by contrast, it’s hard to believe a word of what we’re being told.

Charles Sheen as James MacGregor.

And something else we don’t believe is that billing the lead actor as “Charles Sheen” might add gravitas to the proceedings.

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4 thoughts on “Postmortem (1998 DTV)

  1. Clearly Sheen looked at what happened when Laurence Fishburne stopped being “Larry” and decided he wanted some of that sweet, sweet credibility…

  2. This type of film was all the rage in the 90’s though I haven’t seen this one. Your guarded but still recommend-mildly piece provided an engaging read!

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